A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 04, 2014
“He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”

"He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch” is what a political constituency (such as a political party or a cultural group) says of its own tarnished politician. This politician is better than the opponent because he or she is a member of the group.

Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, was once told that the Democratic and Republican candidates for a certain position were both rascals, and Stevens was asked which one he would support. “Which is our rascal?” Steven allegedly replied. “Which of ‘em is our damned rascal?” was cited in print in 1875. “Which is our rascal? I’ll vote to seat him of course” was cited in 1880.

It’s claimed that U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, asked about support for Nicaraguan President Anastasio Samoza Garcia, remarked in 1939 that “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” It doesn’t matter if this had been said because the basic saying is, of course, much older. “He’s our scoundrel!” was cited in 1923. “It’s like this—he’s our rascal and scalawag!” was cited in 1926. “He’s our So and So” was cited in 1934.

[This entry was assisted by research from Bonnie Taylor-Blake.]


Wikipedia: Thaddeus Stevens
Thaddeus Stevens (April 4, 1792 – August 11, 1868) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania and one of the leaders of the Radical Republican faction of the Republican Party during the 1860s. A fierce opponent of slavery and discrimination against African-Americans, Stevens sought to secure their rights during Reconstruction, in opposition to President Andrew Johnson. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee during the American Civil War, he played a major part in the war’s financing.

Wikipedia: Anastasio Somoza García
Anastasio ("Tacho") Somoza García (1 February 1896 – 29 September 1956) was officially the President of Nicaragua from 1 January 1937 to 1 May 1947 and from 21 May 1950 to 29 September 1956, but ruled effectively as dictator from 1936 until his assassination. Anastasio Somoza started a dynasty that maintained absolute control over Nicaragua for 44 years.
(...)
“Our Son of a Bitch”
Although Somoza was reckoned as a ruthless dictator, the United States continued to support his regime as a non-communist stronghold in Nicaragua. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) supposedly remarked in 1939 that “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” According to historian David Schmitz, however, researchers and archivists who have searched the archives of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library have found no evidence that Roosevelt ever made this statement. The statement first appeared in the November 15, 1948 issue of Time magazine and was later mentioned in a March 17, 1960 broadcast of CBS Reports called “Trujillo: Portrait of a Dictator”. In this broadcast, however, it was asserted that FDR made the statement in reference to Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. It should be further noted that this statement has been attributed to a variety of United States presidential administrations in regard to foreign dictators. Thus the statement remains apocryphal at this point, though Roosevelt and future presidents certainly supported the Somoza family and their rule over Nicaragua. Andrew Crawley claims that the Roosevelt statement is a myth created by Somoza himself.

26 May 1875, Springfield (MA) Daily Republican, pg. 4, col. 3:
Compare this utterance of Serjeant Ballantine with the shameless utterance of the late Thaddeus Stevens, leader of the House of Representatives. It was in the palmy reconstruction days, when the majority were busily seating republican congressmen. Stevens had asked a member of the election committee about a particular contest, and the member had frankly replied that both men were damned rascals. “Of course, of course,” said Stevens, “but which of ‘em is our damned rascal?” That one question illuminates the history of an entire political epoch; it contains an entire system of political philosophy and morals. It was not a creditable epoch; it is not a wholesome system.

Chronicling America
23 November 1876, The Stark County Democrat (Canton, OH), pg. 4, col. 4:
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that ex-Governor Noyes gave a Democratic friend the following succinct reason for believing that Hayes would be elected: “Your damned rascals are out, and our damned rascals are in.” This is neither complimentary to Governors Chamberlain, Kellogg and Stearns, nor to the Republican party.

Chronicling America
12 May 1880, Lancaster (PA) Daily Intelligencer, pg. 2, col. 3:
A Striking Contrast.
New York Herald. (Written by Charles Nordhoff.—ed.)
The contested election case of Curtin against Yocum was decided to-day in the House against Curtin, the Democratic contestant, by a large majority, a good many Democrats voting against unseating the Republican, Yocum. This case and that of Donnelly against Washburne show that the Democrats are not, after all, as unscrupulous as the Republicans declared they would be, nor even as unscrupulous as the Republicans used to be when they had the majority, and when the rule was laid down by the late Thaddeus Stevens, who, being asked on an occasion how he was going to vote, replied:

“Which is our rascal? I’ll vote to seat him of course.”

22 July 1882, Washington (DC) Post, “Credit Where It Belongs,” pg. 2:
“He’s a damned rascal,” said Thad. Stevens bluntly on a similar occasions, “but as he’s our damned rascal we must put him in.”

11 April 1889, Decatur (OH) Weekly Republican, pg. 12, col. 2:
When a Springfield man, years ago, felt indignant, with regard to some nomination of his party which he regarded as unfit to be made and announced his purpose not to support it, he was remonstrated with by Mr. Lincoln and said in justification that the man was a scalawag. “Yes, I know,” said the great man, “but then he’s our scalawag.” And that argument applies to a hundred cases. The candidate may be an unfit man to fill the offices, “but then he’s our fellow.”

7 October 1897, The Times-Democrat (Lima, OH), “Hanna’s Sacrifice,” pg. 4, col. 4:
When that stalwart old Republican fighter, Thaddeus Stevens, was asked to oppose a Republican office seeker on the ground that he was a very bad man, he replied, “Well, he’s our damned rascal, isn’t he?”

29 September 1904, Rockford (IL) Morning Star, “Dineen for a Primary Law” (editorial), pg. 4, col. 1:
“Then both republicans and democrats are indignant and swear they will not vote for rascal Bill and scoundrel John, both grafters.

“But spring and summer and the frost come, and then the republicans and the democrats think it over again. Both candidates are rascals, but the Republicans say, ‘Bill’s a rascal, but he’s our rascal. Let’s be practical.’”

2 March 1923, Hemet (CA) , “The Filibuster,” pg. 4, col. 1:
It reminds us of a Minnesota governor who was urged to refuse an appointment to a man alleged to be a scoundrel.

“Well,” the governor said at the end of the hearing, “by heck, he’s our scoundrel!”

9 April 1926, The Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Saintly Democrats of Clackamas County” (editorial), pg. 12, col. 1:
There is an old tale of a bygone campaign that might clarify the plot. It is told that a political partisan was taken to task for his advocacy of a certain candidate. “Do you not know,” inquired his critic, “that this fellow is a rascal and a scalawag?” To which the partisan gave but brief thought before he responded, “Why, certainly,” said he. “We know that well enough. But you seem to miss the point. It’s like this—he’s our rascal and scalawag!” Which makes a considerable difference, doesn’t it? Or does it?

The New Dealers
by John Franklin Carter
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
1934
Pg. ?:
After the Chicago Convention, Gen. Hugh Johnson, who had worked hard with Barney Baruch to stop Roosevelt, was asked what he thought of his nomination. Johnson replied by recalling a story of a county convention of Democrats in which the wrong man had been chosen. Driving home from the meeting, two politicians were comparing notes. Both had opposed the successful candidate. One said to the other, “Damn it all! We should never have let them put Blank over. He’s a So and So!” The other man sighed and said nothing for a long time. Then he cheered up. “After all,” he observed. “Blank isn’t so bad. He’s our So and So.”

3 August 1948, Washington (DC) Post, “James E. Watson,” pg. 10:
Senator Watson used to tell a story of Uncle Joe which shall be our contribution to the stock of reminiscences about Jim Watson. One day in the House the Speaker spoke about a party man as a deserving appointee for some vacant post. “But you couldn’t recommend him,” said young Watson. “He’s a so-and-so.” “Yes, he may be,” said Uncle Joe, “but, my boy, he’s our so-and so, isn’t he?”

Google Books
15 November 1948, Time magazine, “NICARAGUA: I’m the Champ,” pg. 43:
In 1939 (Anastasio Somoza—ed.) got himself elected for eight more years. And he went to Washington. To prime President Roosevelt for the visit, Sumner Welles sent him a long solemn memorandum about Somoza and Nicaragua. According to a story told around Washington, Roosevelt read the memo right through, wisecracked: “As a Nicaraguan might say, he’s a sonofabitch but he’s ours.”

30 October 1951, State Times (Baton Rouge, LA), “Washington Calling” by Marquis Childs, pg. 4A, col. 2:
A third reason is the conviction of many businessmen who are Republicans that anything goes in driving the Democrats out. They are sometimes frankly cynical about it. “Well, he may be an SOB but he’s our SOB and if he’s got that crowd on the run, then I’m for him.”

30 April 1952, Aberdeen (SD) American-News, “Self-Invited Guest at Truman’s” by Drew Pearson, pg. 4, col. 6:
NOTE—President Roosevelt, less worried about dictators than Harry Truman, officially invited President Somoza to Washington twice. “He may be an s. o. b.,” said FDR, but he’s our s. o. b.”

22 September 1966, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “Shackles Ready for Powell” (editorial), pg. 10, col. 2:
Negro leaders have linked armed to defend Powell. They are forced to recite that old saw: “Sure, he’s a rascal, but he’s OUR rascal.”
(Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.—ed.)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Saturday, October 04, 2014 • Permalink